Celebrities who contributed their services in WWII.

Without trying to sound too much like an old fogy but most of the “Celebrities” nowadays don’t really contribute anything to society as a whole. Sure, some entertain us with their sporting skills or talents(some don’t even have that) but as far as actually contributing some worth while or substantial there are very few who do so.

Below is a summary of celebrities who offered their services during WWII some even risked their own lives to fight for the freedom of others.

Yul Brynner

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During World War II, Brynner worked as a French-speaking radio announcer and commentator for the US Office of War Information, broadcasting to occupied France.

Marcel Marceau

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Long before he donned his famous face paint and toured the world as “Bip the Clown,” beloved mime Marcel Marceau was serving as a member of the French Resistance during World War II. Along with his brother Alain, Marceau forged documents and doctored identity cards to help prevent French children from being conscripted into German labor camps. He also smuggled some 70 Jewish children out of the country by posing as a Boy Scout leader and leading them through the wilderness to safety in neutral Switzerland. The silent performer later joined the Free French Forces under Charles De Gaulle, and served as a liaison offer to General George Patton’s army while entertaining Allied troops with his miming.

Sir Alec Guinness

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Some 35 years before he counseled Luke Skywalker to “use the Force” as Obi Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness was piloting infantry landing craft in the Mediterranean. A trained thespian, Guinness put his theater career on hold in 1939 to join the Royal Navy. He landed some 200 British soldiers on the beaches of Sicily during the July 1943 invasion of Italy, and went on to ferry arms to partisan fighters in Yugoslavia. During one such voyage in 1944, Guinness’s boat was caught in a violent hurricane off the coast of Italy, and he only narrowly managed to guide the ship into a harbor before it was thrown onto a rocky shoreline and damaged beyond repair. Guinness would later put his wartime experience to use portraying military officers in such films as “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Tunes of Glory,” and even played Adolf Hitler in 1973’s “Hitler: The Last Ten Days.

Mel Brooks

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Mel Brooks is best known as the writer-director behind the laugh-a-minute comedies “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and “Spaceballs.” But along with writing killer one-liners, he is also an old hand at defusing German mines. Born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, Brooks enlisted in the army in 1944 at the age of 17. He later served in 1104th Engineer Combat Battalion, a unit that braved sniper fire and shelling to build bridges, clear blocked roads and deactivate landmines ahead of advancing Allied forces. Ever the comedian, Brooks once used a bullhorn to serenade nearby enemy troops along the German-French border with the Al Jolson song “Toot, Toot, Tootsie”—and received a round of applause in return.

Jackie Coogan

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The “Addams Family” actor was a star by the age of 5, appearing alongside Charlie Chaplin in the silent film sensation “The Kid.” Coogan put acting on hold during WWII to deliver troops behind enemy lines in the Burma campaign.

James Stewart

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In August 1943, Stewart was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group as operations officer of the 703d Bombardment Squadron, but after three weeks became its commander. On October 12, 1943, judged ready to go overseas, the 445th Bomb Group staged to Lincoln Army Airfield, Nebraska. Flying individually, the aircraft first flew to Morrison Army Airfield, Florida, and then on the circuitous Southern Route along the coasts of South America and Africa to RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. After several weeks of training missions, in which Stewart flew with most of his combat crews, the group flew its first combat mission on December 13, 1943, to bomb the U-boat facilities at Kiel, Germany, followed three days later by a mission to Bremen. Stewart led the high squadron of the group formation on the first mission, and the entire group on the second. Following a mission to Ludwigshafen, Germany, on January 7, 1944, Stewart was promoted to major.Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing on the first day of “Big Week” operations in February and flew two other missions that week.

On March 22, 1944, Stewart flew his 12th combat mission, leading the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on Berlin. On March 30, 1944, he was sent to RAF Old Buckenham to become group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer on missions.To inspire the unit, Stewart flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on several missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe. As a staff officer, Stewart was assigned to the 453rd “for the duration” and thus not subject to a quota of missions of a combat tour. He nevertheless assigned himself as a combat crewman on the group’s missions until his promotion to lieutenant colonel on June 3 and reassignment on July 1, 1944, to the 2nd Bomb Wing, assigned as executive officer to Brigadier General Edward J. Timberlake. His official tally of mission credits while assigned to the 445th and 453rd Bomb Groups was 20 sorties.

Hugh Hefner

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Years before founding what would become the Playboy empire, Hefner served as a writer for a military newspaper in the U.S. Army at the end of WWII.

Tony Bennett

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The crooner responsible for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Rags to Riches” is also a battle-tested World War II vet. Tony Bennett was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944, and spent the later stages of the war in the 63rd Infantry Division in France and Germany. Bennett’s unit was responsible for mopping up after the Battle of the Bulge, and he participated in intense urban combat while searching for Nazi stragglers in bombed-out German towns. The singer also witnessed the horror of the Holocaust firsthand when he helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Landsberg, Germany. Bennett would later write that his army service transformed him into an lifelong pacifist, but it also whetted his appetite for show business by giving him his first ever chance to perform as part of a military band.

Joe Louis

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One of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, Louis was a major driver of anti-Nazi sentiment in America during WWII. In January 1942, Louis held a charity boxing match that raised $47,000 for the Navy Relief Society. The next day he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

I will be doing more articles in the future about celebrities who contributed to the WWII efforts since there were so many of them.

 

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